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Don't Swim The Potomac

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A sign on the river's edge near the Angler's boat area warns of the dangers in the Potomac.
Elliot Francis
A sign on the river's edge near the Angler's boat area warns of the dangers in the Potomac.

By Elliot Francis

Last year, six people died from drowning accidents in the Potomac River. As the days get warmer, local authorities are reminding people that swimming in the Potomac isn’t just hazardous, it’s against the law.

Kayakers say some of the toughest parts of this river lie in the 14 mile stretch between Great Falls and the Key Bridge. Navigating in a coast guard approved boat is ok, what you can’t do, is just go for a swim in the river.

“To swim in the Potomac River is illegal," says Montgomery county Fire and rescue assistant Chief Scott Graham. He says steep drop offs, hidden rocks and a vicious undercurrent, make swimming hazardous, and he says some wind up in the river through carelessness.

“There are accidents that happen. People climb on rocks, they slip, they get into trouble. Then some folks try to go into help them,” he says.

Graham says if you plan to be on the water legally, take a friend and let someone know where you plan to be, and when you plan to return.

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